Weather helps firefighters in Siskiyou, Jackson counties
Smoke from two major wildfires in the Siskiyou Mountains, one east of Ashland and one northwest of Yreka, covered eastern Del Norte County in a dusk-like orange haze on Sunday, and thunderstorms expected Monday night and Tuesday morning carried the possibility of more lightning-sparked fires.
The lingering smoke was a common curiosity in Gasquet on Sunday, but by Monday the smoke cover had drastically dwindled.
“So far today it hasn’t been too bad,” said Leslie Helm at the Gasquet Market.
Although the spread of the Oregon Gulch Fire near Ashland slowed as temperatures cooled Monday, giving firefighters a chance to build containment lines, the 10,516-acre Beaver Fire 29 miles west of Hornbrook was only two percent contained on Monday. The Beaver Fire near the town of Klamath River on Highway 96 grew by 3,000 acres from Sunday to Monday morning.
Highway 96 was closed east of Seiad Valley except to local residents on Monday as 343 firefighters combatted the blaze. No structures had been destroyed Monday, but an advisory evacuation notice was issued to residents on Beaver Creek Road.
The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland reported that the Oregon Gulch Fire was 20 percent contained Monday evening at 36,723 acres. Approximately 15 miles east of Ashland, most of the fire — 27,000 acres — is in Oregon’s Jackson and Klamath counties, while 9,464 acres has burned in Siskiyou County.
Firefighters’ concerns of winds causing flare-ups did not materialize on Monday, and there was a lot of progress made on the fire’s eastern side, according to Joe Touchstone, spokesman from the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw containment to be up tomorrow,” Touchstone said.
After a request by Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the use of federal funds to reimburse the state of California up to 75 percent of the cost of firefighting for the Oregon Gulch Fire.
At the time of Brown’s request, the fire was threatening 92 homes in the Siskiyou County community of Copco Lake, population 203, where mandatory and voluntary evacuations were in place.
The fire burned six scattered rural homes last week and still threatens 270 more, about 40 of them within the fire perimeter.
About a dozen fires burned some 209 square miles across California in the past week with more than 7,500 federal and state firefighters
The Oregon Gulch Fire has already cost more than $5.5 million in firefighting efforts.
Overall, nine large fires were burning across 118 square miles of forest and rangeland in Oregon, most of them east of the Cascade Range.
Coordination center spokesman Tom Knappenberger says after two straight days of major runs, the Oregon Gulch Fire burned only about 7 square miles on Sunday. Firefighters made progress building containment lines on the eastern flank, the direction the fire has been spreading through timber, brush and the Klamath River Canyon after being touched off last week by lighting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.